Parish Magazine Article - November 2020

I write this as the view from my window is looking very autumnal. The leaves are turning and the nights are drawing in, the warmth of summer is slowly ebbing away. This time of year marks a change in the churches year as we move away from Easter and Pentecost and begin to prepare for Advent. In the Church Calendar we have some significant moments coming up and the Kingdom Season is almost upon us.The liturgists and those who plan our lectionary have created a number of markers along the way that help remind us of the role that Kingdom has in our faith.We have All Hallows Eve (Halloween), All Saints and All Souls and then Christ the King. In between we have Remembrance Sunday and in more recent years Armistice Day has taken on new resonance in society as a whole.

These moments all have something in common they are about memory and remembering and they remind us that we belong to something bigger than ourselves.These memories are all the more poignant this year for me as we have just had a significant family funeral. We have been looking through old photographs. It was a very odd feeling as photographs going back to the early part of the last century were recovered. I am sure over time we will as a family sit down and work out who they all are and no doubt scratch our heads as we work out the significance of why certain shots were taken. It struck me that the black and white photographs have lasted far better than colour from the 60’s & 70’s.

I guess most of us of a certain age have boxes of old photographs and possibly even slides. Slide shows feature strongly in my memory as when I was growing up every friend and relative seemed to want to show us their holiday slides. What struck me is that these pictorial records of life are very much a unique part of 20th Century life, everything now is digital and dare I say it disposable. Now if we don’t like them we simply delete them or manipulate them in a computer until they look the way we wanted them too.

These church festivals allow us to remember. All Saints reminds us that we are part of a worldwide church which stretches back through history and we give thanks for the ordinary Christian men and women who worshipped and prayed often in the same churches as we do today who have gone before us. There is a strong and unbreakable spiritual bond between those in heaven who have gone before us, and the those of us living in this present time.The Book of Common Prayer refers to those in heaven as the Church Triumphant and those of us who are here and now as the Church Militant. Strange terms in the 21st Century but it captures well the sense that the Kingdom is both here and yet to come.Those who have gone before us are the great cloud of witnesses that cheer us on that the writer to the Hebrews reminds us of, for we collectively are the Saints.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, …” Hebrews 12:1

All Souls allows us a moment of reflection as we remember with thanksgiving those who have died who we love but see no more. It offers us a powerful window in to God’s heart of compassion for those who grieve and mourn the loss of loved ones and allows us as a church to accompany one another on that journey. It reminds us too that we have a Saviour who has overcome the sting of death and fulfilled for us the promise of eternal life.

It is in the festival of Christ the King that we are reminded that our faith has a Saviour who will return to wind up history and restore God’s Kingdom. Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and it is to him and him alone we owe our homage and worship. It marks the end of the Church year with a strong reminder that Jesus Our Saviour is prophet, priest and King.

Ultimately this is a period of reflection, of memories and of thanksgiving like the season of autumn it can feel full of melancholy but it is also one of joy and celebration. In our COVID dominated world it is good to be reminded that there is life beyond ourselves and that there is an unbroken chain of Christian witness going back through the centuries.  Sometimes we need to stop and reflect that there is more to life than this present moment, that things will change and we will see a new creation.  Until then we simply need to share with each other the joys and tears of our common humanity and remember with thankfulness those who have gone before us in faith who have ensured that we can take forward the message of hope for our world.